What do the coming years hold for the arts under a new presidential administration? As The New York Times writes, “If Mr. Biden’s tastes run to 1967 Corvettes, Grisham novels and ‘Crocodile Rock,’ he is, nonetheless, someone arts leaders say has always embraced the practical usefulness of the arts as an economic engine, political action trigger and community builder.”
Robert L. Lynch, president and chief executive of Americans for the Arts says that the president-elect’s attitude is “less from a consumer point of view and more about the inspirational value and transformational value of the arts … It’s not, ‘Look, I loved this piece, or this song.’ It’s more about the bigger role of the arts in society.”
If you compare President-elect Joe Biden to a public figure like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was a rabid operaphile often seen at The Metropolitan Opera or Santa Fe Opera, Biden doesn’t seem to measure up. When he was Barack Obama’s vice-president for eight years, he attended events at the Kennedy Center and a Washington National Opera gala, among others, but his profile as an arts aficionado seems somewhat modest by comparison to the likes of Justice Ginsburg.
It appears, though, that as a senator and then vice-president, Biden has been a consistent advocate of government funding for the arts. And as recently as last month, Biden won the endorsement of the Actor’s Equity Association, the union for actors and stage managers. No mean feat—this was only the second time in its history that the Actor’s Equity Association has made a presidential endorsement.
“The future—who we are, lies in the arts.”
—President-elect Joe Biden
“Joe Biden will be the most consequential president for the arts industry in a generation,” Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association, said in a statement. “At a time when live entertainment is still largely dark because of the coronavirus, we will finally have a partner in the White House who will create a national strategy to bring the pandemic under control and put everyone in the arts back to work. Until then, we need to reinstate pandemic unemployment so that displaced workers can pay their bills, increase arts funding and finally pass a COBRA subsidy to make health insurance affordable as unemployment stretches on.”
Robert Lynch commented, “We look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration to support both the nonprofit arts community as well as independent artists working in the growing gig economy… He understands that the arts are integral to both revitalizing the soul and rebuilding the infrastructure of America.” He concluded by saying, “President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris bring a commitment to get creative workers working again. Our nation needs to capitalize on the abundance of under-employed yet talented creative and racially underrepresented workers in America to aid in the recovery, to unify, and to heal our nation’s communities and economy.”